Women Building Bridge Over Media Gender Gap; NY Times Quotes Anonymous Commenter

At the beginning of 2011, the writer and reader Anne Hays published a much-discussed open letter to The New Yorker, decrying the lack of female voices in recent issues and demanding a refund should the gender imbalance not at least move toward righting itself. In the weeks since, the women's literary group Vida published a report detailing "the truth of publishing disparities" across the media landscape at magazines and journals like The Atlantic, Harper's and the New York Review of Books. (In short: women are criminally unrepresented.) But the growing chorus of voices, especially online, hit a rather pleasant high note today when it comes to intelligent discussion on the matter, as writer and editor Megan Carpentier writes fairly on "the media glass ceiling," while another editor launches a new blog called Lady Journos, which "highlights the work of journalists who happen to be women." More positivity -- plus, how Britney Spears and homosexuals combined to confuse journalists (and much more!) -- inside Press Clips, our daily media round-up.

Changing the Ratio: In the Guardian, Carpentier, an associate editor at Talking Points Memo and formerly a blogger at Wonkette, after as a career as a lobbyist, writes from the perspective of a female editor, recognizing Hays' plight, but noting the difficulty of addressing the imbalance from the inside. Quotas alone, Carpentier writers, can't fix everything:

In the media, as in my earlier career as a lobbyist, one comes to sadly realise that most applications come from men - even supremely unqualified ones. It's difficult to constantly try to beg certain writers to provide you with their work when others are imploring you for an opportunity, but it's no different in any industry: you promote the person asking for the promotion that they seemingly deserve more often than the utility player who fails to sell his or her work - and women are inevitably schooled in modesty while their male peers are schooled in self-promotion.

The cycle of pitching also doesn't play to the supposedly stereotypical female strengths: you have to brush off near-constant rejection, spend your days courting indifferent suitors and run around telling editors how amazing you are.

These explanations for the ratio disparities have been voiced before, but when Carpentier writes in conclusion that an editor must "seek out, cultivate and assign talent" instead of just relying on "the already-known talent," it finally feels proactive.

That spirit is embodied, at least as at a starting point, by ex-American Prospect editor Ann Friedman, who Carpentier quotes in her piece, and today launched Lady Journos on Tumblr. Friedman spoke to Yahoo's The Cutline about her project, and also posted to her own blog:

"I created this site as a one-stop shop for lazy editors who claim there aren't many women journalists," Friedman told The Cutline in an email Tuesday morning. ... "I'll be highlighting work by women writers who are not already well known," Friendman continued. "Everyone loves Jane Mayer--and rightfully so! But that's the exact reason I won't be featuring her on my site. I will link to work that I think is compelling--long-form narrative pieces, investigative reporting, provocative essays--by women who deserve more exposure."

Heartening, to be sure, as is the positive response echoing in the spots you'd expect it to, and yet it's so damn frustrating to fear for the follow-through. But for now, all eyes on you, editors.

NYT Cites Anonymous Commenters: In less exemplary media news, the New York Times, late last week, way overestimated the importance of Village Voice Media commenters. In a piece called "A Breast-Feeding Plan Mixes Partisan Reactions," a Times reporter included it features an unattributed quote supporting Michele Bachmann in a fight against Michelle Obama about breasfeeding:

"Holy mackerel, I might have to agree with Michele Bachmann on this one!" noted one person on a blog.

Turns out, it wasn't really written on a blog, but in the comments section of a blog owned by this very company. Minneapolis' City Pages, to be exact, which is quick to point out that the bizarre quote goes against Times policy, which states:

The policy says anonymous sources should be used only as "a last resort when the story is of compelling public interest and the information is not available any other way."

If we were an anonymous commenter we would recommend thirty raps on the knuckles, courtesy of Mr. Bill Keller, for the offending reporter caught in a moment of extreme laziness.

Britney Spears, Gay Icon (Or Not): And in Britney Spears news, the pop star is not, in fact, the ultimate gay icon, as reported by reputable newspapers like the Washington Post and Toronto Sun, which republished the news unverified. It turns out, as detailed by the Broward Palm Beach New Times, the poll originated from the untrustworthy content farm Examiner.com, where writer Fernando Palazzo just made the whole thing up.

Local writer and editor Jessanne Collins notes that the Sun published the poll results without sourcing anyone, while the Post just sourced the Sun. (We've told this story before.) Expect corrections in a few days, when the newspapers get around to it.

The Plight of a Freelance Writer: Teddy Wayne wrote a satirical story for the website of the now-defunct Radar magazine. Nine months later, CSI: NY copied the made-up concept for an episode of television, in essence creating a "ripped from the headlines" TV interpretation of something that never actually happened. Some people call that plagiarism. For reparations, Wayne just wants CBS to donate $20,000 to charities of his choice or for you to read his whole story at The Awl.

The Daily Dog: Last week, when The Daily editor Jesse Angelo encouraged his staff to find interesting stories, like "the oldest dog in America," in a leaked memo, we noticed that the first-ever iPad newspaper loved canines, having written four puppy features in just 14 issues. In the one week since, there have been three more -- here, here and here -- in case you thought we weren't paying attention. Still nothing on the oldest though.

Tips and e-cards go here:

[jcoscarelli@villagevoice.com / @joecoscarelli]


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